It's Not A Trivia Question
A quick series of deaf trivia questions is in order.
Question: How many superintendents and heads of residential schools for the deaf are deaf?
Answer: Eighteen at the latest count
Question: How many of these 18 deaf superintendents and heads are Jewish?
Answer: Two of them
Question: Who are they?
Answer: Harvey Corson, at Kentucky School for the Deaf and Susan Sien at Central North Carolina School for the Deaf (CNCSD).
One Last Question: How many of these deaf superintendents and heads are female?
One Last Answer: Just three
Susan Sien, as one of the eighteen deaf superintendents & heads, and as one of the three deaf females in the exclusive club, and also as the only deaf Jewish female superintendent, is not one to sit on her laurels. In fact she has her work cut out for her while overseeing the affairs at CNCSD.
That CNCSD is still in business is a political miracle. CNCSD, beset by dwindling enrollment, was slated for closing by the state government. The state saw no sense in keeping CNCSD open whereas sister schools North Carolina SD on the west end and Eastern North Carolina SD on the east end, were also suffering from dwindling enrollments.
The deaf community rallied, forcing the state government to backtrack. Instead of closing CNCSD, the state committed more funds for the school!
At that time Susan was the headmaster at Austine School for the Deaf. Prior to her stint at Austine she had a long teaching and administrative career at Lexington School for the Deaf in New York.
Under Sien's leadership combined with strong support from the state education officials, CNCSD enrollment has grown to 150 students. Sien has pledged an upgrading of the academic programs and the after-school recreational programs. Already she has effected changes - the kindergarten class is the largest in school history; the school has hosted the Junior NAD convention, and the possibility of adding a high school department is in the talking stage.
Not content just to rely on the annual 5 million dollar budget to keep CNCSD operative, Sien has in mind an educational foundation that will assure the school of supplemental funds.
An ambitious woman, she did not set out to become an educator. She graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York City with a major in graphic arts and design. A career working at the fabled Madison Avenue, the capital of advertising, was what she thought she had in mind.
Giving the advertising world a try for five years, working for various studios, Sien grew weary of the cut throat corporate culture and decided to give the field of deaf education a chance.
The career change meant one thing - she had to go back to school. This is what she did - studying at New School for Social Research for her bachelors' degree and then without missing a beat, picking up masters' from Columbia University.
Lexington School for the Deaf became her first teaching stop. After teaching in the classroom for few years she moved up the ladder - to dean of students and then as assistant principal.
A position as Executive Director of the Austine School for the Deaf in Brattlesboro, VT opened up. Sien applied for the position and got it. After five years at Austine, she then moved on to the superintendency of CNCSD.
Regardless of the environment and location, Sien is as comfortable at CNCSD as she was at Lexington and Austine.